What happens when you put a motel owner in one of her own units alone for a week?
Chris and I have been known to stay in our own rooms on various occasions.
Firstly, it’s great to know what the guest experiences. Clearly, every guest has their own unique expectations, but we believe that it’s important to know what it is like to stay in our lovely rooms. There is nothing like understanding the product from all vantage points. We can better help people, our guests, with their accommodation choices. We speak from our experience, even if it is based on what we like.
Alternatively, if we get a recurring piece of feedback about a particular room, or room type – we pop in, spend the night, and check it out; wear the bathrobe, drink the teas and coffees, eat the biscuits, watch the telly and dine at Buddha Stix! Indeed, one of the steps on our newly created long-service award ladder for staff, is to gift them a night for 2 in one of the units. To experience is to understand. (NB. This award ladder was the brainchild of my most recent staycation)
While on one hand we might be looking to solve a problem, on the other hand, we might be looking for new ways to enhance the guest experience. Of course, we would love to be able to have all new smart TVs, coffee machines, Stressless recliners, brand new everything, gifts, air conditioning in every room and not just some. We would love to be able to do a lot of things and do them NOW, but we are realistic (and happy) with where we sit in the 4 Star Plus accommodation market. Sadly, Covid has seen tough times and our tariffs sit at or below the level that they were at 6 years ago, yet all our expenses have risen and continue to increase dramatically. Thus, we have hunkered down and had to think creatively.
Yet another reason we might stay in a room is when we have some time-off and have absolutely nowhere to go ☹.
Motel life is wonderful, we meet lots of people, and we enjoy it - but it is a bit never-ending! There is no such thing as a weekend where we get time off work or stat holidays. We are open every single day of the week and every week of the year. Our workdays start before 8am and finish often after 10pm, when all the day’s tasks are done. Some days we have night callouts or late-night phone calls as well. Time-out is important for our longevity (in business, as well as life) and our levity!
Since March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has thumped us in many ways and with some often-crippling financial fallout. Subsequently we haven’t been able to afford a lot of time-out, we haven’t been able to travel. If we went anywhere we needed to think about a speedy escape plan home, for we can’t go anywhere, where we would need to isolate for a week because our business would suffer the most. Added to that, we now that have our buddy boy Tax, so holidaying with a dog throws up a whole new set of issues.
So, when we do get at chance, we bolt at the opportunity, with our fantastic reliever Rosann, coming in. We race down the stairs or across the jasmine-lined bridge - for a night or two in a unit.
But this month’s staycation was a little different...
I was staying in the unit, all alone. No, Chris and I hadn’t had a fight of irreconcilable proportions - just in case you had started to wonder. I was forced into it, when I was finally hit, and succumbed to the almighty Covid.
“Aaaaaahhhhh” I hear you say, “that’s the reason”. You see, for the last two and half years, we had both been lucky enough to dodge the coronavirus airborne bullet. Alas, just when I thought that I might have the immune system akin to a solid steel-reinforced bank vault, there I go and get a scratchy, tickly and ultimately, very sore throat. Body aches, a fever, and a splitting headache to boot, set me up perfectly for a positive rapid antigen test to quickly follow suit.
The nasty virus would steal my freedom for seven wintery days. So…. I’m banished, exiled, expelled, ejected, ousted, cast out and very quickly evicted! I’m locked up, jailed, confined, imprisoned, shut in a room with my toothbrush and a few toiletries. I have a some medications, my jarmies and undies and a single change of clothes.
The selection of food items is limited, that’s what happens with a 1.30am raid of the cupboards. But give me some yoghurt, almond milk, overripe bananas, and my trusty ninja bullet!
No kiss goodbye, no hug, no “you will be okay”. It’s all, “oh shit, its finally happened, now, away from me, get away!”
We are very lucky that we are classed as critical workers in the accommodation industry. This means a household contact can still remain working, albeit allowed out – but he is not completely free. A daily negative test, not daring to step out of the confines of the aurora nest, Chris gets to work, walk around the units - the finest of rewards. He earns the privilege to do laundry, answer phones and make sure nothing is untoward. A mask is a must, strict hygiene protocols (robust) he runs around like a headless chook to keep our business going.
So, with this snuffle that turned rogue, I was out the door - exiled for the full seven days. I had visits, short and infrequent from Chris - who was masked, busy and socially distanced. Morning coffee upon waking, and dinner signaled with the loud shrill unit phone ringtone. On day 5, he even baked me some mighty fine and tasty date scones.
Not to be left out, I did also have visits from a 4 dodgy-legged doggy, but even Tax initially didn’t like the smell of me. So Chris shoved a long-stemmed cotton bud end up his snout each morning and he prayed. He prayed to the accommodation gods that he stay, stay symptom-free and test negatively, while I rode out my time in unit 21.
What did I do in that time?
The first day and a half are a blur where I am trapped in my PJs, unwashed and confined to my bed. I check the ceiling for cracked paint, cobwebs, I check the bed for dents, and I throw Panadol at the pain in my back, chest, my body and my throbbing head. I hope the tissue boxes are full and don’t just have three sheets left in the bottom. And I can’t even eat a biscuit because I'm feeling so rotten. The weather is atrocious, I can see its windy and raining outside – through the small window in unit 14's well-appointed kitchen. By day 3 I have ideas, even though I’m quite sure, I’ve blown my brains right out of my nose. I'll plan renovations for this accommodation - a window there, a feature wall there, but then I really think I might be having a myocardial infarction.
So, I move units as the sun comes out for some mid-winter sun and fun. But I have no shoes and I quickly shuffle barefoot and snotty across the bridge, to the spacious unit 21. There are windows from floor to ceiling and I can see out to the garden, and I know that I’m furthest from reception. I’m away from the lift, I gaze at the garden, and no one can come anywhere near me.
But the sun was just teasing 'cos immediately I settled, the climate got really really shitty. But my little piece of paradise, in unit 21, is warm with its heat pump and bathroom underfloor heating.
I sleep and I sleep, and I read and watch TV, the latter only once the jackhammer and head-gripping vice playing games with my head have subsided. I try to eat, but deciding what I want is difficult, when your stocks are limited, and even chocolate doesn’t seem very appetizing. I send messages out to my internet friends, in the hope that there are others who might also have time on their hands. I talk to friend Mandi each morning, in our dressing gowns, for an hour or two on end. She always lets me know if I’m looking yellow, drawn, sound awful or I'm glowing, and keeps me up with all the latest gossip.
Thank goodness for Chris with his morning coffee and the eagerly awaited dinner run. But I’m sure I have fat stores that would be fine for even more than the seven days that I have in 21. I make my bed, I do my dishes and I put my toweling out for the daily laundry express. I'm kinda happy, snotty and relaxing - pretending that I’m a domestic goddess.
Yet what does a motel owner do, when starting to feel better, and the eyes focus, and the brain can think? I send out for some Jiff, cleaning rags and disinfectant, and a toothbrush to scrub the bathroom till my fingers are wrinkled and pink!
Then rearrange the room, and rearrange it again, and rearrange it just cos I forgot what it looked like before.
Show me a black mark on the wall, I can deal with that too, give me a magic sponge and all those marks are gone. And once again there are the refurbishment plans… well that’s just a dream. So, let’s just make it look better, create space and less clutter, and definitely replace the flicking kitchen light and hissing bedside lamp in the meantime.
Lists for the housekeepers. Lists for Chris. There are lists with lists within them. Then I listen to podcasts, meditations and scroll Facebook and wonder what else I can do. I can always think of things I need to do when I have no time to do them, give me time and I often don’t know what the hell to do.
I think of my lifestyle, I think about where I’ve come from, my retirement, the future, then get overwhelmed with that future realm. I get back to the present and decide the best thing is to have a rest and do nothing at all. Which lasts all of 5 minutes when I pull out the ear pods and flick through the Spotify app. I plan my next Hot Pilates class for Hot Yoga Dunedin and wonder if it will work out, since I can’t actually do it, with my chest and breathing feeling like crap.
And before you know it, I’m out and I’m free. I even get the text from the Covid ministry. So off I trot home, still barefoot and shuffling and its almost snowing – across the icy bridge, frozen toes but clear-headed and Covid-free. Interestingly though, I left the apartment and returned, still in my jarmies.
Post Script: Upon leaving my home-away-from home, Unit 21; the busy bee housekeepers had work that had to be done. They swarmed in with disinfectant and steam. They scrubbed, stripped and laundered it clean. They steamed and they sprayed. The unit now ready and for the next guest straight away.